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Virginia Republicans React to Derek Chauvin Verdict

Amanda Chase speaks at podium as geese fly
Sen. Amanda Chase speaks at a GOP event on Tuesday in King William County, Virginia. (Ben Paviour/VPM News)

Four leading Republican gubernatorial hopefuls in Virginia reacted with statements of prayer, hope, and outrage after a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty on three convictions related to the killing of George Floyd.

Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Midlothian) was the first to respond at a GOP event in King William County on Tuesday evening.

“Today's verdict makes me sick,” Chase told a crowd of a couple hundred Republicans gathered on a farm. “I am so concerned about our law enforcement right now quitting. And you should be too.”

The other candidates -- Del. Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Glenn Youngkin and Pete Snyder -- responded to reporters’ questions about the verdict with statements. Cox was the only candidate aside from Chase to directly respond to the verdict, and none of the four leading candidates posted a response on social media.

Cox, the former speaker of Virginia’s House of Delegates, initially declined to comment on the verdict in an interview minutes after it was announced. He later put out a statement to reporters Tuesday night supporting the outcome.

“Officer Chauvin was afforded due process and convicted today by an impartial jury,” he said. “For me, that is a clear result of our judicial process, and it’s important to not only respect that outcome, but to defend it as the rightful result in a society that should value the rule of law.”

Youngkin’s campaign responded to requests for comment on Wednesday, saying his prayers were with “the Floyd family, the Chauvin family, and our entire American family.”

“It is our hope that Mr. Floyd’s family finds peace in this verdict right now, at what is no doubt another agonizing moment in their lives,” Youngkin said in a statement. “As governor, I will uphold the foundations of our civil society, preserve the right to a fair trial, and ensure equal treatment under the law. I believe it is time to come together in our hope for a better tomorrow."

Snyder’s comments did not directly mention Chauvin or Floyd. 

“Our commitment to due process and the rule of law is the fundamental foundation of our society and is what makes America exceptional,” Snyder said in a statement sent to reporters on Wednesday. “Every Virginian can and should stand together in pursuit of truth and justice. As Governor, I will fight to protect and preserve our founding principles.”

Republicans are set to choose nominees for governor, attorney general, and lieutenant governor at a May 8 statewide convention. Past conventions have drawn party activists who lean more conservative than the broader electorate. The party has not won a statewide race since 2009.

The reactions were sharply different among Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls, who broadly described the verdict as a fragile win in a broader fight for racial justice. Manuel Bonder, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party of Virginia, called Chase’s comments “racist and dangerous” and argued they were representative of the belief of other Republicans. 

“It’s incumbent upon the other candidates to condemn these comments in no uncertain terms,” Bonder said. “Anything less is a de facto agreement, and proves there is no daylight between them.”

In an interview before her speech, Chase said she was struggling to process the verdict, saying it “grieves my heart.”

“I hope that justice does prevail in the situation, and it looks like it's already being appealed,” Chase said. “I'm not a jurist. I’m a state senator and a candidate for governor, but I wholly support our law enforcement.”

The comments make Chase an outlier among some fellow allies of former President Donald Trump, including Congressman Jim Jordan (R-OH) and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). Her remarks were more aligned with the tone of conservative commentators Tucker Carlson and Candice Owens, with the latter calling the verdict “mob justice.”

Republicans at the King William event roundly praised law enforcement and blasted past Democratic proposals designed to reign in their powers, including failed bills that would have ended qualified immunity and reduced the penalties for assaulting a police officer.

“Our law enforcement heroes are going to know that I and we have their back because they have ours,” Youngkin said in his speech. “They've been defunded. They've been demoralized.”

Delegate and gubernatorial hopeful Lee Carter (D-Manassas) proposed a 25% cut to state funding of local police last year, but the move went nowhere. Democratic lawmakers in the General Assembly instead approved $500 bonuses last year for state police, capitol police and corrections officials. This year’s budget added an eight percent pay increase and another round of bonuses for state police. Advocates for the pay raise argued that historically low pay had hurt recruitment, retention, and morale.

Democrats also passed new laws restricting law enforcement’s use of no-knock warrants and chokeholds, establishing new training statewide standards, and requiring colleagues to intervene if they see an officer using excessive force.